Thurston County, home to Washington state capital Olympia, isn’t a big county in size but it’s quite impressive in the number of good fishing lakes it has.
Thurston County’s best lakes are worth fishing for their high numbers of trout (many heavily stocked) in addition to offering some excellent angling for largemouth bass, panfish, catfish and kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon).
Many of this county’s streams drain into southern end of Puget Sound, while a few instead head west toward the Pacific by way of the Chehalis River drainage, with both major drainages offering some additional fishing for salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat trout.
Thurston County also is home to cities and communities including Lacey, Tumwater, Rainier, Tenino, Yelm, Bucoda, Grand Mound and Rochester.
County attractions include the Capitol complex, part of the Capitol State Forest and The Evergreen State College, but you’ve come to this article for the fishing.
The following is an alphabetical listing of the best and most noteworthy fishing opportunities throughout Thurston County. The brief listings in some cases link to more detailed articles about some of the better fishing spots.
Before we launch into the listings, however, we’d like to point out that at the end of this article you will find a “Fishing in Neighboring Counties” feature.
This feature quickly lists the counties heading in every direction from Thurston County, and links you to articles that will detail all of the very best fishing spots in those nearby places. It’s an easy way to find even more of your fish.
This is large reservoir on the Nisqually River is most popularly fished for kokanee during the warmer season.
You also potentially could limit on coastal cutthroat trout, and warmwater fishing options include several species of bass and panfish.
The nearly 3,000-acre reservoir straddles the line between Thurston and Pierce counties, with a little bit of the upper reservoir poking into Lewis County.
More: Alder Lake Fishing
Bald Hill Area Lakes
Bald Hill, Bass and Elbow lakes, plus various South County ponds, in the southeast part of the county, offer largemouth bass, yellow perch and bullhead catfish fishing opportunities.
These lakes aren’t usually stocked with trout and therefore don’t draw as many anglers as some spots, including nearby Clear Lake (see separate listing).
Elbow Lake is the largest, has bank and boat access at a state park, and also may have some crappie and cutthroat trout in addition to the warmwater species in the other lakes. A few smaller ponds may have cutthroat as well.
Bald Hill Lake is quite shallow and gets soupy with aquatic weeds in warmer weather, so hit that one in spring or early summer.
This is one of the largest and most popular multi-use lakes near Olympia.
Anglers like the Tumwater-area lake for the many thousands of hatchery trout stocked here, plus multiple species of bass and panfish.
This big (about 300-acre) lake and its park are a centerpiece in Olympia, right next to the Washington State Capitol Building.
Creating by damming the Deschutes River just above the Sound’s Budd Inlet, historically runs of salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout entered the lake. The state has stocked it in years past.
So it might be tempting to wet a line. Don’t. These days, the lake is closed to all fishing.
While this 50-acre lake on the Olympia-Lacey border has been stocked with trout in the past, it’s managed as a warmwater fishery these days.
The common fish caught here are largemouth bass, yellow perch and bullhead catfish. Channel catfish have been stocked here. Some sources suggest the presence of some cutthroat trout and warmouth.
The lake is very shallow gets super weedy in the late summer and attempts to control them with grass carp haven’t been as successful here as at many lakes, according to the WDFW.
There is a boat launch at Chambers Lake Trailhead Park on the north end.
Little Chambers Lake also has warmwater fish species.
This lake east of Yelm (one of many Clear Lakes in Washington) gets good numbers of stocked trout, has bass and panfish year-round and sports a modest kokanee fishery.
It’s only a short drive from either Olympia or Tacoma, with along with good fishing prospects, makes it a popular spot.
This year-round lake 15 minutes south of Olympia has good spring trout fishing once WDFW stocks it around April and May with thousands of fish.
Once the trout-fishing fades in the summer your best bets will include nice numbers of largemouth bass, yellow perch and bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish.
Unlike many stocked lakes near Olympia, this one isn’t surrounded by houses so offers a peaceful getaway close to home.
The primary access is on the north side through Millersylvania State Park (pass required), which has bank access. You also can launch a carry-in boat or float tube. The state park has day use, camping and lots of amenities and activities besides fishing.
There also is private Deep Lake Resort on the east side. It doesn’t allow kids.
Anglers are reminded that a Discover Pass is required, in addition to the WDFW freshwater or combination fishing license, to use Washington State Parks.
Nearby Scott Lake has limited fishing access, mostly for private residents, but if you can get permission there are some resident trout, bass and other warmwater fish.
This river system flows at an angle across Thurston County (after heading in Lewis County) and flows into Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia before entering Puget Sound at Budd Inlet.
It’s primarily fished for catch-and-release cutthroat and wild rainbow trout. There are some sea-run cutthroat lower down and residential trout in the upper stream.
There is a tiny Chinook salmon harvest in the stream.
Some lakes in the basin offer fishing for bass or other species, including Fifteen Lake, Gehrke Lake, Reichel Lake, Smith Lake and Springer Lake.
Just in case you don’t know the Northwest well, this is not the more famous Deschutes River in Oregon.
A nice multi-species fishing lake with public access in a residential neighborhood in Lacey.
Hicks is well-stocked seasonally with trout and also has plenty of bass and panfish.
More: Hicks Lake Fishing
The upper creek in Thurston County is mostly a catch-and-release trout stream for wild cutthroats.
The lower creek in Mason County offers some chum salmon fishing.
Or Lake Lawrence, this Yelm-area lake is very nicely stocked with hatchery trout in the spring (and a little more in the fall), so fishing can be quite good.
Lawrence also has good fishing for largemouth bass, channel catfish and panfish.
More: Lake Lawrence Fishing
A good-sized suburban neighborhood lake in Lacey, Long Lake is stocked with a good 30,000 trout each year, mostly in the spring months (but some in the fall).
Long Lake also has a very good warmwater fishery and is popularly fished for largemouth bass, and it also has rock bass, warmouth and a variety of other panfish, plus some giant carp.
This is an easy access spot reserved for youth, elderly and disabled anglers.
It’s located in Lacey’s Woodland Creek Community Park, just north of Long Lake.
See the link for Long Lake (above) for more information about fishing for trout and warmwater fish in the pond.
This short stream, entering the Sound in the Nisqually River delta area, is primarily fished for sea-run cutthroat returning during the late summer and early fall.
The creek is closed for wild salmon.
See WDFW regulations for size limits and other rules.
This is a long, narrow lake covering a little more than 100 acres that is nicely stocked with rainbow trout for spring fishing.
Some of the stocked trout are nice-sized “jumbos.”
McIntosh is located right along Highway 507 four miles east of Tenino, or roughly a half hour drive southeast from Olympia.
McIntosh Lake also has pretty good fishing for largemouth bass and plenty of yellow perch, as well as bullhead catfish.
There is a WDFW access including a boat launch on the north side and additional bank access from the Yelm-Tenino Trail on the south.
This smallish lake near Olympia’s airport is set aside for catch-and-release fishing, whether for its nice-sized rainbow and cutthroat trout or its resident populations of bass and panfish.
Anglers also must use only artificial flies and lures and follow other stricter rules at Munn.
More: Munn Lake Fishing
This lowest dozen or so miles of this river system can put out good numbers of salmon some years.
Salmon runs include Chinook, coho and (in odd-numbered years) pink salmon. The Chinook must be fin-clipped hatchery fish to retain, and the coho also are hatchery-bred fish.
Salmon fishing here starts to get serious in August with the arrival of the first Chinook, while Chinook and pink salmon fishing is usually best in September, when the first coho also start joining the party. Coho fishing is likely to peak in October.
The Nisqually also is home to wild steelhead and cutthroat trout, but both species must be released in the lower river and tributaries.
More: Nisqually River Fishing
This is a good lake to combine reliably good trout fishing with camping or day-use activities only about 20 minutes from Olympia.
There are three kinds of trout here and you also can catch bass, perch and catfish.
More: Offutt Lake Fishing
Pattison Lake (some say Patterson) is a good-sized but shallow fishing lake just south of Lacey that is stocked with lots and lots of trout in the spring.
Bass and panfish angling take over for the summer and early fall here.
Nearby Southwick Lake behind Lakes Elementary School isn’t stocked but has some warmwater fish such as bass and bullhead catfish, and maybe a few cutthroat trout.
More: Pattison Lake Fishing
There are a variety of fisheries in the South Sound area, but also lots of rules that may change at times. Be sure to study up on regulations.
Among local saltwater opportunities are some oyster and clam beds, surf smelt and sea-run cutthroat, in addition to local salmon runs.
Of particular interest, migrating Chinook, coho and chum (and sometimes a few pink) salmon pass through the area on their way to the Nisqually and other rivers in the summertime.
South Sound Chinook catches can be quite decent, often peaking around August, and a modest number of typically smaller blackmouth Chinooks feed in the area.
Some access points in Thurston County include Fry Cove, Priest Point and Burfoot parks, but not all access points are open to all activities.
Best known for its small-stream fishing for late-winter steelhead below Skookumchuck Dam, the river also offers up some sea-run and resident trout and a few hatchery coho salmon.
St. Clair Lake
This twisting, turning lake east of Olympia has excellent fishing for stocked trout and channel catfish and resident largemouth bass and panfish.
It has it all, except maybe plentiful bank access (but nice boating).
More: St. Clair Lake Fishing
This popular 500-acre fishing lake has excellent spring trout fishing and summertime angling for kokanee and several types of bass and panfish.
Summit is a boater’s lake with limited shore access, but if you can get out on the water, you are very likely to catch fish here.
More: Summit Lake Fishing
This smallish Olympia lake offers pretty decent fishing for trout and kokanee close to home.
There also are the typical assortment of bass and panfish available.
More: Ward Lake Fishing
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Mason County: To the north, lots of trout, bass and kokanee in lakes, plus access to the lower Puget Sound including Hood Canal.
Pierce County: To the east, from salmon in the suburbs to trout in the high mountains, surprising number of fishing spots for such a populous county.
Lewis County: To the south, the best salmon and steelhead fishing on the Cowlitz River plus excellent trout, bass and other fishing.
Grays Harbor County: To the west, excellent coastal salmon and steelhead fishing, popular ocean port, and crabbing and clamming.